Sunday, March 7, 2010

Deer Abby: Advice for driving Hwy 61

It's March and the deer are all over Highway 61, making ravens and eagles happy and drivers nervous.

They say there are two kinds of North Shore drivers: those that have hit a deer, and those that haven't...yet. I still fall into the second category. But that's only a matter of my own dumb luck. My turn will come.

I'm tempting fate here, but here's what I've learned so far in my stellar no-deer stretch of luck:

  1. If you keep it under 55 at night, you'll have much more reaction time should Bambi pop out from behind a birch tree.
  2. Be especially observant at dawn and dusk . I see a lot more deer and they are moving more at those times. They call this behavior "crepuscular," which sounds like "creepy" and "muscular." Which is what deer are at night.
  3. Watch for flashes. If an oncoming car flashes highbeams at you, it might be a warning that there are deer ahead. Check your own headlights and then keep your eyes out for deer in the next 10-15 seconds.

If you see a deer:
  1. Where there's one, there may be more. In winter, deer are more likely to move in herds. If one has crossed the road safely, there's a decent chance that a second will follow.Don't let that SECOND one be your FIRST.
  2. Honk your horn. Flash your highbeams for the oncoming traffic to warn them. No, gangsters won't track you down and kill you for a random gang initiation...that's urban myth.
  3. Don't swerve. Stay in your lane. Brake firmly but not so hard you lose control. I've had plenty of close calls and stayed in my lane as I braked ("broke?"). By the way, experts suggest that you DO swerve if you're headed for a moose. I have never seen a moose on Highway 61, but it does happen. A 1600-pound moose wins the battle with your car much more often than a 200-pound deer.
If you hit a deer, hope you have your hunting knife. I'm not kidding: a friend of mine took this advice from her father and was able to gut out and keep a deer another car had just hit.

Okay, now I've done it. I've jinxed myself. See you at the body shop.


Dave Carlson said...

We have hit three deer since moving north in the spring of 2001. Most damaging was one of five standing on the Hwy 61 Expressway at the Knife River Bridge in a snow squall.

Another was in a cloud of snow behind a tanker truck, just east of the intersection with Hwy 1 at Illgen City.

It's particularly bad now in our own Little Marais area from Hwy 1 to the Satellites Cafe in nearby Cook County.

55 mph helps, but those deer we've hit have all run into us from the side with less than 100 feet of warning.

lotus said...

We joined the first category on our last trip. We were headed out of Grand Marais and technically still in town when the deer jumped right in front of out Jeep. Thankfully we were only going about 10 mph and it seemed as if we might of avoided it until that last leap right onto our path. Yikes! Scary, but we were able to drive our Jeep home. I think your suggestions about warning other drivers are great!